The government has refused to drop the VAT on period pants – here's what to do

You may remember that a few months ago, we reported that period pant company Wuka was petitioning the government to drop the tax on sustainable menstrual products.

Wuka argued that women should be encouraged to use more sustainable means of managing periods, rather than being penalised for reducing waste.

While VAT is being dropped for tampons and pads from next year, eco products like period pants still have a 20% levy on them, which makes them economically unviable for many people.

So, Wuka urged the UK government to revise its pledge and make resuable period pants 0% VAT.

Unfortunately, HMRC has refused the request, citing that ‘difficulties in policing the scope of the relief create the potential for litigation, erosion of the tax base and a reduction in revenue’. However, it went onto say that period pants ‘may qualify for the zero rate when designed for children under the age of 14 yearsold providing they meet certain maximum sizing limits’.

‘This tax law codifies a body ideal that is exclusionary to any child over a slim waist size of Extra Small, sending out a message to any girl that doesn’t fit this definition that their body shape is not accepted as a child’s body and is excluded,’ explains Wuka’s CEO Ruby.

‘For parents of children above XS and under 14; this is excluding them from affordable menstrual products because of their child’s hip size.’

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What’s the significance of being 14? In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, someone is a minor if they’re under the age of 18 and a good number of girls don’t even start menstruating until they’re over 14 years old.

And in no part of HMRC’s response was there an acknowledgment of the waste created by tampons and periods.

Over the course of someone’s menstrual life, they can get through up to 15,000 pads and tampons – the vast number of which will end up in landfill as plastic waste. The applicators alone create a tonne of plastic waste, as activist Ella Daish highlighted this week when she created a 6ft tall Giant Tampax Applicator out of 1,200 Tampax applicators collected from beaches and waterways across the UK.

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Resistance training: here’s why it’s so effective for weight loss

Weight lifting, also known as resistance training, has been practised for centuries as a way of building muscular strength. Research shows that resistance training, whether done via body weight, resistance bands or machines, dumbbells or free weights, not only helps us build strength, but also improves muscle size and can help counteract age-related muscle loss.

More recently it’s become popular among those looking to lose weight. While exercises such as running and cycling are indeed effective for reducing body fat, these activities can simultaneously decrease muscle size, leading to weaker muscles and greater perceived weight loss, as muscle is more dense than fat. But unlike endurance exercises, evidence shows resistance training not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength.

The ‘after-burn effect’

When we exercise, our muscles need more energy than they do when resting. This energy comes from our muscles’ ability to break down fat and carbohydrate (stored within the muscle, liver and fat tissue) with the help of oxygen. So during exercise, we breathe faster and our heart works harder to pump more oxygen, fat, and carbohydrate to our exercising muscles.

What is less obvious, however, is that after we’ve finished exercising, oxygen uptake actually remains elevated in order to restore muscles to their resting state by breaking down stored fat and carbohydrates. This phenomenon is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) – though more commonly known as the “after-burn effect”. It describes how long oxygen uptake remains elevated after exercise in order to help the muscles recover.

The extent and duration of the after-burn effect is determined by the type, length, and intensity of exercise, as well as fitness level and diet. Longer-lasting exercise that uses multiple large muscles, performed to or near fatigue, results in higher and longer-lasting after-burn.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and high intensity resistance training are most effective at elevating both short and long-term after-burn. The reason HIIT-type exercises are thought to be more effective than steady-state endurance exercise is because of the increased fatigue associated with HIIT. This fatigue leads to more oxygen and energy required over a prolonged period to repair damaged muscle and replenish depleted energy stores. As such, resistance exercise is an effective way to lose excess fat due to the high calorie cost of the actual training session, and the “after-burn effect”.

Long-term fat loss

Resistance training can also be effective for long-term weight control, too. This is because muscle size plays a major role in determining resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is how many calories your body requires to function at rest. Resting metabolic rate accounts for 60-75% of total energy expenditure in non-exercising people, and fat is the body’s preferred energy source at rest.

Increasing muscle size through resistance training increases RMR, thereby increasing or sustaining fat loss over time. A review of 18 studies found that resistance training was effective at increasing resting metabolic rate, whereas aerobic exercise and combined aerobic and resistance exercise were not as effective. However, it’s also important to control calorie intake in order to lose fat and sustain fat loss.

Resistance training exercises should engage the largest muscle groups, use whole body exercises performed standing and should involve two or more joints. All of these make the body work harder, thereby increasing the amount of muscle and therefore RMR. An effective resistance training programme should combine intensity, volume (number of exercises and sets), and progression (increasing both as you get stronger). The intensity should be high enough that you feel challenged during your workout.

The most effective way of doing this is using the repetition maximum method. For the purpose of fat loss, this should be performing between six and ten repetitions of an exercise with a resistance that results in fatigue, so that you cannot comfortably do another full repetition after the last one. Three to four sets, two or three times a week for each muscle group is recommended.

The repetition maximum method also ensures progression, because the stronger you get, the more you will need to increase resistance or load to cause fatigue by the tenth repetition. Progression can be achieved by increasing the resistance or intensity so that fatigue occurs after performing fewer repetitions, say eight or six.

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Your Lifestyle Choices Are Causing Great Damage to Your Health- Here’s How You Can Ward Off Autoimmune Diseases

Doing what’s convenient has become almost second nature to us. Whether it’s staying back at work, giving up on sleep to complete pending tasks, or opting for a quick and easy-to-eat meal, we constantly make choices that are bad for us. We’ve become our own worst enemies! And, the numbers are there to prove it. In the last three decades, the rate of autoimmune disorders has increased drastically.

Granted autoimmunity is commonly passed down through genetics but, recent research into the field suggests that our environment and life choices are doing greater harm to us.

While it’s true that in today’s day and age, we can’t escape from our sleep-deprived and stressed-out lifestyles but, we can rest assured that switching to better dietary habits will significantly decrease our chances of getting autoimmune diseases, and it will substantially improve the quality of our lives.

How Our Immune System Works

In many ways, our immune system functions similarly to a home security system. Both systems are designed in a manner that ensures intruders are locked outside, while we remain safely inside.

Unlike a security system, however, when our immune system notices any threats in the form of bacteria, parasites, viruses, or any other harmful substances from the outer environment, it instantly activates its inflammatory pathways to ensure their destruction.

However, sometimes our body loses its ability to differentiate between substances that belong inside and outside it. In such cases, it launches inflammatory pathways in a state of “self-attack”. This is what is happening inside our bodies when we have autoimmunity. Basically, it’s like having the home security go off for no reason, rendering us unable to stay inside our home.

Causes of Misdiagnosis

During autoimmunity, it is common for different organs to be attacked. Hence, each of its types is classified according to the organ being affected. Common types of autoimmunity include type 1 diabetes, irritable bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s disease, celiac disease, and Grave’s disease.

Depending on the symptoms that occur, doctors order a biopsy, blood tests, or imaging. Autoimmunity, however, can be gravely complex, and doctors are known to have a hard time coming to a conclusion while dealing with it.

How To Stay Immune

Since studies have proven that the environment can have adverse effects on us, we have to ensure that we limit the multiple stressors present within our lifestyle choices. Yes, this means changing everything, down to the last scratch.

No more overtime, no more sleepless nights, no more unhealthy dietary choices. Remember that autoimmunity is genetic, and we always run the risk of passing it on to the next generation. Switching up our lifestyle for the sake of our health will only cause our bodies to bless us like never before.

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Here's When a Sore Throat Might Be a Symptom of the Coronavirus

Since news of COVID-19, which was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, exploded onto the scene, there has been one thing that remains constant: Each day we learn more and more about the virus.

That includes its potential symptoms, which often seem run-of-the-mill. Take a sore throat—you might be tempted to shrug off this symptom, but even as one of the less commonly known ones (the most prevalent are fever, dry cough, tiredness, and shortness of breath), it may still indicate infection.

In fact, the World Health Organization notes that 13.9 percent of COVID-19 patients have presented with sore throats.

“Some patients that have experienced sore throat during COVID-19 have reported that it feels like a super dry throat,” says Leo Nissola, M.D., a scientist and investigator at the COVID-19 National Convalescence Plasma Project as well as advisor at COVIDActNow. “And the medical reports show redness in the throat, without bacterial infection, like strep, for example.”

Is a Sore Throat a Symptom of COVID-19?

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That’s a tricky question.

There are numerous causes for inflammation of the inner lining of the throat, including allergies, upper respiratory infections (both viral and bacterial), acid reflux, and even throat cancer.

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Not to mention this: “There is still so much we don’t know about COVID-19 and what we do know has been evolving over time,” says Inna Husain, M.D., an assistant professor in otolaryngology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

“At this time, all upper respiratory illnesses are COVID-19 until proven otherwise.” What’s more, an April review in the European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology revealed that ear, nose, and throat symptoms may precede the development of severe cases of COVID-19.

That said, “there is nothing intrinsically different between a sore throat brought on by COVID-19 and one brought on by any other upper respiratory infections,” says Michael Lerner, M.D., a Yale Medicine laryngologist and assistant professor of otolaryngology at Yale School of Medicine.

What, Exactly, Does a “Sore Throat” Mean?

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On a basic level, you will experience some sort of discomfort in your throat. More specifically, you’ll feel pain when swallowing that can be achy, sharp, or even create a burning sensation.

A sore throat may also be accompanied by a runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, or fever. Other symptoms, according to Alexandra Kreps, M.D., an internist at Tru Whole Care, include “changes in your voice, swollen lymph nodes in your neck or jaw area, and when looking at your tonsils in a mirror they may be red and irritated or could have white patches or pus if severely infected.”

However, Dr. Nissola, says “it is more likely to be a COVID-related sore throat if there are more symptoms, such as fever and malaise.”

A good rule of thumb: “If your sore throat is also accompanied with fever or cough, be suspicious. If your sore throat comes after an episode of heartburn likely its related to reflux. If it is accompanied by sino-nasal congestion, runny nose, and sneezing, it may be allergies,” says Dr. Husain.

What Should You Do If You Have a Sore Throat?

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How you treat your sore throat symptoms should really consider the root cause.

Generally, though, Dr. Husain recommends hydration (drinking water or tea), steam inhalation, and lozenges containing lubricants such as honey. Pain relievers such as Tylenol can also help with discomfort.

Adds Dr. Lerner: If sore throat is from excessive coughing, you can address it though cough suppressants. For nasal congestion, which causes mouth breathing and dryness, try humidification or hydration through nasal saline or irrigation. “Patients that have COVID-19, should be cautious of nasal spread and do this in a safe way, so as not to expose others to aerosols and droplets that may occur from these types of treatments,” he says.

If sore throat is due to allergies, on the other hand, pretreatment with antihistamine prior to allergy season or known allergen exposure— in other wards take an allergy pill— can be helpful, says Dr. Husain.

Last, if the sore throat is caused by reflux, following an anti-reflux diet may lead to a favorable outcome. “I would encourage people to eliminate anything heavily acidic or citrus as this can irritate the lining of the throat. Hard foods such as crackers or chips can also be irritating,” says Dr. Husain, who notes that if a sore throat is present, avoiding coffee or alcohol as well as reducing smoking cigarettes, smoking marijuana, and avoiding vaping is recommended.

While none of these things will necessarily “cure” a sore throat, they can help with some of the discomfort associated with it.

Should You Get Tested for COVID-19 if You Have a Sore Throat?

“For people with nuisance, acute onset symptoms, or any other listed by the Centers for Disease Control as potentially a symptom for COVID, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider to help determine if testing is appropriate,” says Dr. Learner.

Overall, to help keep COVID-19 or any infection or illness at bay, wash your hands frequently, wear a mask and engage in social-distancing.

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Here's What It Really Means When a Narcissist Says 'I'm Sorry'

Clinical psychologist and therapist Dr. Ramani Durvasula makes videos educating people about how to best spot harmful toxic behavior in others, and what to do to protect yourself and limit the damage that can be wrought when you have a narcissist in your life. Having previously explained why it’s not wise to call out a narcissist, Durvasula’s most recent post explores how to respond if a narcissist actually apologizes for the way they have acted.

“The idea that their apology means they understand what they did, and they’re going to change their behavior, it isn’t true,” she says, “and if you hold that belief, it’s likely that you’re going to be very disappointed.”

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“An apology, done correctly, is taking responsibility; addressing the other person’s feelings, striving for reconciliation, and committing to learning from it,” she continues. “Unfortunately, that’s not what a narcissistic apology is. A narcissistic apology is sort of a way of keeping the trains running on time, of getting off the hook for something, of getting back to the way they want things to be.”

A narcissist doesn’t actually care that they hurt somebody else, and often, Durvasula points out, an apology only comes after a lengthy argument where they believe the person they hurt may take away their “supply.” And in each instance, the narcissist does not learn from the experience or adapt their behavior, and the cycle continues.

It’s pretty easy to identify a narcissist’s apology, simply because they won’t take responsibility for what they did. We’ve all heard that particular kind of non-apology, when somebody sounds like they’re apologizing but really they’re talking around their own accountability by saying things like “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

“In all of these apologies, what you see is that they are not apologizing for something they did or said,” says Durvasula. “They are in essence, though, using the apology as a way of gaslighting you and invalidating your experience: ‘I’m sorry you feel that way,’ meaning ‘you probably shouldn’t.'”

A healthy apology, Durvasula explains, involves acknowledging and owning the original action, not just the reaction. There’s a huge difference between saying “I’m sorry you’re hurt” and “I’m sorry I hurt you, I’ll try to do better.” Durvasula’s three hallmarks of a healthy apology are responsibility, acknowledgment, and commitment.

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We may be able to eliminate coronavirus, but we’ll probably never eradicate it. Here’s the difference

Compared to many other countries around the world, Australia and New Zealand have done an exceptional job controlling COVID-19.

As of May 7, there were 794 active cases of COVID-19 in Australia. Only 62 were in hospital.

The situation in New Zealand is similar, with 136 active cases, only two of whom are in hospital.

If we continue on this path, could we eliminate COVID-19 from Australia and New Zealand?

Control –> elimination –> eradication

In order to answer this question, we first to need to understand what elimination means in the context of disease, and how it differs from control and eradication.

Disease control is when we see a reduction in disease incidence and prevalence (new cases and current cases) as a result of public health measures. The reduction does not mean to zero cases, but rather to an acceptable level.

Unfortunately, there’s no consensus on what is acceptable. It can differ from disease to disease and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

As an example, there were only 81 cases of measles reported in Australia in 2017. Measles is considered under control in Australia.

Conversely, measles is not regarded as controlled in New Zealand, where there was an outbreak in 2019. From January 1, 2019, to February 21, 2020, New Zealand recorded 2,194 measles cases.

For disease elimination, there must be zero new cases of the disease in a defined geographic area. There is no defined time period this needs to be sustained for—it usually depends on the incubation period of the disease (the time between being exposed to the virus and the onset of symptoms).

For example, the South Australian government is looking for 28 days of no new coronavirus cases (twice the incubation period of COVID-19) before they will consider it eliminated.

Even when a disease has been eliminated, we continue intervention measures such as border controls and surveillance testing to ensure it doesn’t come back.

For example, in Australia, we have successfully eliminated rubella (German measles). But we maintain an immunization schedule and disease surveillance program.

Finally, disease eradication is when there is zero incidence worldwide of a disease following deliberate efforts to get rid of it. In this scenario, we no longer need intervention measures.

Only two infectious diseases have been declared eradicated by the World Health Organisation – smallpox in 1980 and rinderpest (a disease in cattle caused by the paramyxovirus) in 2011.

Polio is close to eradication with only 539 cases reported worldwide in 2019.

Guinea worm disease is also close with a total of just 19 human cases from January to June 2019 across two African countries.

What stage are we at with COVID-19?

In Australia and New Zealand we currently have COVID-19 under control.

Importantly, in Australia, the effective reproduction number (Reff) is close to zero. Estimates of Reff come from mathematical modelling, which has not been published for New Zealand, but the Reff is likely to be close to zero in New Zealand too.

The Reff is the average number of people each infected person infects. So a Reff of 2 means on average, each person with COVID-19 infects two others.

If the Reff is greater than 1 the epidemic continues; if the Reff is equal to 1 it becomes endemic (that is, it grumbles along on a permanent basis); and if the Reff is lower than 1, the epidemic dies out.

So we could be on the way to elimination.

In both Australia and New Zealand we have found almost all of the imported cases, quarantined them, and undertaken contact tracing. Based on extensive community testing, there also appear to be very few community-acquired cases.

The next step in both countries will be sentinel surveillance, where random testing is carried out in selected groups. Hopefully in time these results will be able to show us COVID-19 has been eliminated.

It’s unlikely COVID-19 will ever be eradicated

To be eradicated, a disease needs to be both preventable and treatable. At the moment, we neither have anything to prevent COVID-19 (such as a vaccine) nor any proven treatments (such as antivirals).

Even if a vaccine does become available, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) easily mutates. So we would be in a situation like we are with influenza, where we need annual vaccinations targeting the circulating strains.

The other factor making COVID-19 very difficult if not impossible to eradicate is the fact many infected people have few or no symptoms, and people could still be infectious even with no symptoms. This makes case detection very difficult.

At least with smallpox, it was easy to see whether someone was infected, as their body was covered in pustules (fluid-containing swellings).

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